Meet the Co-Chairs of Barclays’ Employee Resource Group: Inspire
25 May 2023
Barclays’ Employee Resource Group (ERG), Inspire, focuses on social mobility. It aims to amplify the voices of colleagues who identify as coming from a lower socio-economic background – and strives to achieve this by encouraging everyone to learn about the challenges they may face in their career and in the workplace. The ERG’s Co-Chairs in India and the UK share what motivated them to get involved – and what they hope the group can achieve.
“Seeing our colleagues so ready and willing to support Inspire’s objectives is exciting. Once you start talking about a topic like social mobility, the momentum gathers.”
Jhansi Ghattamaneni, Chief Data Officer, Human Resources, is discussing how colleagues have responded to the launch of Barclays’ latest ERG. The group focuses on social mobility and aims to amplify the voices of colleagues who identify as coming from a lower socio-economic background – while also promoting socio-economic inclusion across the organisation.
There is a clear need for more work in this area. In 2021, Barclays became members of the UK Government’s socioeconomic taskforce, whose purpose is to drive socioeconomic inclusion at senior level across financial services. As part of this work, Barclays has now signed up to the new Progress Together membership body to drive this agenda forward across the industry. Research by non-profit consultancy, Bridge Group, which examined eight financial services organisations in 2020, reveals that 89% of senior executives in financial services come from high socio-economic backgrounds. Meanwhile, colleagues from a low socio-economic background take 25% longer to progress in their chosen career.
Enthusiasm around Inspire has already been palpable and work is underway to establish what can be achieved. In the UK, Inspire already has more than 900 members – and Co-Chairs Ryan Makuku and Colin Pretty are using insights from surveys and conversations with colleagues in other ERGs to flesh out future activities and events.
“The really interesting thing about socio-economic inclusion and social mobility is that it intersects with all areas of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI),” says Makuku, who is Assistant Vice President in Treasury Funding and Investments at Barclays. “I think this is one of the most interesting areas of DEI to work in.”
Over in India, Ghattamaneni and her Co-Chair, Rakesh Vora, Head of Treasury, are also helping to define Inspire’s remit. As Vora explains: “Socio-economic diversification is important. There are 22 official languages spoken in India and Barclays has more than 20,000 employees, so we have people coming from many different cultures, economic backgrounds and regions. We want all of them to be included.”
Barclays has been fantastic in working to improve representation in terms of race and gender. But if everyone has the same background, are we truly achieving diversity and inclusion?
Banking and Credit Director, Barclays Private Banking and Co-Chair, Inspire
Bringing experiences to Inspire’s work
So, how did the four Co-Chairs get involved?
“I want to do my bit to support people who also identify as coming from a low socio-economic background as I do – to get the same opportunities that Barclays has given me,” says Pretty, Banking and Credit Director at Barclays Private Banking in London, UK.
“The bank has been fantastic in working to improve representation in terms of race and gender. But if everyone has the same background, are we truly achieving diversity and inclusion? We need to show that people from all backgrounds, myself included, are welcome at Barclays. It’s about broadening our DEI horizon by looking through a socio-economic lens.”
Makuku is equally keen to ensure that all talent can access Barclays’ career pathways, regardless of background. “My connection with the socio-economic agenda comes from my lived experience. I grew up in one of the more deprived boroughs in London,” he says. “Although it was a great melting pot of different cultures, there was a distinct lack of opportunity for young people. There were a number of barriers that impacted my experience of education and my journey into Barclays. But my school was the environment that nurtured all the skills and character traits that have supported me in my career so far – without the school, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today.”
Makuku is hopeful that Inspire’s activities will tie into wider work that the bank is doing around socio-economic inclusion. “It’s up to organisations like Barclays, supported by groups such as Inspire, to tap into these communities and bridge the gaps that may be holding people back from fulfilling their potential,” he explains. “So now that I’m here, I want to use my position as Co-Chair to help pave the way for the next generation.”
Vora and Ghattamaneni had both expressed an interest in becoming more involved in Barclays’ DEI agenda – so the opportunity to Co-Chair Inspire in India felt like perfect timing. “It gives me an opportunity to see the impact of socio-economic inclusion and social mobility in the workplace, and to help raise awareness,” says Ghattamaneni. “Becoming part of Inspire was not only about helping removing barriers for those progressing their careers at Barclays, but also about understanding the diverse backgrounds our colleagues come from.”
For Vora, it’s also an opportunity to attract talent, collaborating with other ERGs and the DEI team: “Socio-economic inclusion provides a huge opportunity to make an impact by providing support to colleagues from different backgrounds and helping them progress,” he notes. “It’s a wide remit and multi-dimensional across all key phases of colleague experience – attraction, retention and development.”
I want to use my position as Co-Chair to help pave the way for the next generation.
Assistant Vice President in Treasury Funding and Investments at Barclays and Co-Chair, Inspire ERG
“It’s about trying to create a level playing field”
All four Co-Chairs are mindful of the sensitivities surrounding social mobility. “Your socio-economic background can be an unseen characteristic,” observes Makuku. “But it’s also one of the biggest things that differentiates us – our perceived ‘class’, how we’ve grown up, the school we attended and the opportunities we’ve been afforded.”
Those existing biases can be hard to change. Ghattamaneni says that language can represent a significant challenge: “In India, education is your biggest ticket to social mobility, but that education has to be in English if you want to work at a multinational company. I often come across people who do great work, but they’re unable to progress because they can’t communicate in the same language as other colleagues.
“Growing up in India, my parents made sure I had educational opportunities that gave me a head start in my career – so watching the progress they made, as well as the challenges they faced around social mobility, has made me mindful of the unfair prejudice that comes with not being able to speak a particular language.”
Pretty hopes that eventually Inspire can have a positive impact beyond the bank. “Internally, we can grow our membership, raise awareness, understand what our hiring and retention strategy is and understand what we’re doing from a progression perspective,” he says. “But it’s about wider socio-economic inclusion too, and that starts with educational opportunity. As we start to create a voice through Inspire, I hope we can start to use the weight of an organisation like Barclays to help lobby for long-term change. It’s about trying to create a level playing field.”
Seeing our colleagues so ready and willing to support Inspire’s objectives is exciting.
Chief Data Officer, Human Resources and Co-Chair, Inspire ERG
Thinking big on future ambitions
Looking to the future, how do the four Co-Chairs hope Inspire can make a difference?
“We want to encourage a culture of allyship,” says Makuku. “We want Inspire to represent the thoughts and feelings of those who come from a lower socio-economic background, but we also welcome allies and advocates.”
Vora is also keen to get the support of leadership teams across all major functions in India. “We want to spread awareness about social mobility and seek support to open the doors of opportunities for people from lower social backgrounds. Preconceptions about certain organisations can discourage anyone from a specific kind of educational background from working for those businesses and discovering personal opportunities,” he says.
“We have to break these preconceptions by providing support to colleagues from different backgrounds. This will have a positive impact on businesses and stakeholders.”
For Ghattamaneni, the first step to allyship might simply involve picking up on cues when talking to colleagues. “Consider how, unconsciously, your background or the opportunities you’ve had could mean that even your day-to-day conversations actually exclude someone,” she says.
The final word goes to Pretty: “Inspire was founded in 2021 and although it is now a global ERG, we don't want to run before we can walk. But the great thing is that we don’t have to make the case for DEI – the ERGs within Barclays have already proven that a more diverse workforce gets better results.
“Now, it’s time to focus on social mobility. I see Inspire’s work as an encapsulation of all those things that can make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Barclays has more than 20,000 employees, so we have people coming from many different cultures, economic backgrounds and regions. We want all of them to be included.
Head of Treasury, Barclays
Need to know: Inspire
Inspire is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) ERG within Barclays, which exists to amplify the voices of colleagues who identify as coming from a lower socio-economic background. Inspire’s members will help the organisation better understand the impact of social mobility in the workplace, and how all colleagues can contribute to creating a sense of inclusion and belonging. Long term, Inspire will strategically contribute to Barclays’ business objectives and advocate for socio-economic inclusion.